Saturday, April 30, 2016

Mulch, then mulch some more and flock changes

Everything is green in the garden... Many things Blooming.. Some things are ready to harvest!  
Everything is being mulched now.. I have a load of sawdust for the back gardens and a load for the front ... And I'll be shoveling hay/donkey manure for mulching the corn next week. Corn is a very greedy feeder and needs so much to be productive. Thankfully the donkeys and geese are productive with their manure! I'm planting 6 corn varieties that are counting on it... Was going to only plant five but I got in Stubbles Pink dent corn... How can I not plant it this year!!!
So I'm making it work! I've grown red corn.. Multi colored corn this will be a first for pink!!
Using insect netting has been a total game changer for things like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and others that fall victim to the cabbage moth here.
This is my first year growing favas and I hope they yield as well as they are blooming!
Mulching is pretty much an everyday thing now... Since the weeds grow faster than the veggies.
Muscadines look amazing this year!
I mulch everything... Because mulching is easier than weeding every week and it means no competition for nutrients and water. My plant gets it all.
And I will so be investing is much much more insect netting! 
Baby broccoli forming here!
Some of my fall 2014 planted blueberries look better than the ones we planted in 2011...
That's what happens when I can plant things right under my nose! 
Yes I mulch these too...
Some silkies Enjoying some fresh greens and a cushaw from last year.. Even though the chickens are really so tired of winter squash.,, 
I already posted this guys pic below on facebook but he's so darn pretty I decided to post him here too! 
I'm going to be making a lot of changes to my goose flock , focusing on only what's most important to us.
and may even sell all my ducks ...
Ducks are so awesome I hate to not have them .. I really love ducks!!! 
but... That would make management easier if I only kept geese and a few silkies. 
Multi specie flocks don't work out well for me.. A group always gets bullied .. Their nutritional needs tend to be different and they are just much happier in a flock of their own kind. 
I can run them all in the same pastures fine .. This works especially well since geese are good guards against aerial predators but when it comes time to put them up in their winter housing ( some need more shelter in cold weather than others like my Chinese geese) or when they go broody there tends to be a lot of drama and some birds always get hurt.
Geese can be crazy aggressive over a nest site and this year I even had some silkies kick a Muscovies butt for coming near the nest. 
Im starting to think its not worth the trouble or the stress on the birds just because I like to have loads of different poultry. And I don't want to have to build to many other separate shelters.. Livestock chores have to be kept under an hour a day with the way I garden. Putting up more birds in different shelters means more time.

Hard decisions for me because I really love my birds...and deep down I am fighting the temptation of being a poultry hoarder😕
Essentially my geese need to be 2 flocks only.. A flock of mid sized meat type geese with excellent fertility and the best mothers and my egg laying flock of non broody , smaller size but heavier layers. 
Right now I have four separate groups and lots of incubator babies to manage ...its a bit much with the 2 groups of ducks and the silkies.. Can't forget , also the donkeys and my garden guardians the beagles... Which my girl , Daisy is expecting puppies next month!
If you have to many even low input animals will start to suck your time away!
  It's not like I'm managing needy ruminants but it's still a lot... 

Friday, April 29, 2016

When fall and winter are over.. But you still have a load of pumpkins to eat...

Everyone is soooo excited when cooler weather hits and food trends pumpkin everything! Pumpkin drinks, pumpkin soups, pumpkin fries, pumpkin desserts .. On and on...
But here I am about to step into May, weather in the 80's.. With 23 of these guys left and 4 huge cushaw and even a butternut...
Well cushaw & butternut are winter squash and these pictures here are Seminole pumpkins ( one of my top producers for 2015)
But you know ..,  All pumpkins are really squash but not all squash are pumpkins! 
I've fed loads of squash to the pigs and chickens but these Seminoles are just to good to feed them all to the animals..
So...,hot weather foods made with pumpkin!
not wanting pumpkin pies and pumpkin soup.. Which are just way to cool weather eats for me...
I make Pumpkin biscuits!!!!
Yes!!!! I usually make my biscuits with sweet potatoes but these came out great! It's never to hot for biscuits ( maybe it's a southern thang but these were so good! ) 
Pumpkin gnocchi with fresh mustard green pesto ...
Lite and perfect for a warm day.. Adding pumpkin to bread and pasta lowers the carbs and adds lots of vitamins. 
This was such a good lite gnocchi I made extra to freeze  for later in the summer when I have basil pesto. 
And the healthiest cheesecake ever...
Made with fresh eggs, goat cheese, honey and Ofcourse pumpkin!! The crust is fresh ground corn meal, honey , lard and walnuts. That's it...
Not heavy or laced with spices like a holiday pumpkin pie.. This cooks up very lite.  
I've made this cheesecake for years with a variety of different winter squash. 
Using goat cheese is a way healthier alternative to cream cheese but you have to be careful .. If you have a goat cheese with the sort of 'goaty' taste it won't be very good. 
I use goat cheese from Vermont creamery. No strong taste it's perfect for when you want a healthier alternative to cream cheese in desserts. Drizzled with a little honey and walnuts .. Perfect treat for a hard day on the garden!
Pumpkin biscuits with spring radish dip...and asparagus .. Not a cool weather dinner at all! 

Similar recipes for all this can be found on the Internet. The base of the winter squash cheesecake recipe came from the book 'stocking up' 
If you don't have it and like to cook and stock up .. You need that book! I did tweak it abit here though. 

Other news...Now I need to figure out what to do with the pound of arugula I just harvested..
It's going to be a good day when these get ripe!!!!!
And my silkie hen True Blue hatched out 5 little babies!! 
Silkies... Still the best , most productive ,easiest , no drama chicken ever!

Y'all have a very blessed day 😊

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Why I will never be a real seed saver and wow! I have a lot of geese!

We have accomplished a lot in six years... Providing over 90% of our own food was the main goal of us farming !! And we did it!!!! And are doing it!!
A lot of success in that is We have learned to love productive livestock , no matter what the look or breed.. Realizing that what we love the idea of, or the look of is not always the best animal to put our effort and resources toward. It's productivity, ease of management and amount of input that count the most.
And I've had to learn to love the challenge of the garden. Because loving the pretty productive garden is easy.. Loving the ways to get it productive ..not so much!
These things are big keys in that first goal we accomplished ...that and eliminating things like high input livestock and some higher maintenance plants , focusing on zone 0 growing areas and buying good gardening tools!
But we also have a goal of a farm business ... Or a few small farm businesses to help with living costs..that's actually been harder to figure out. 
We've learned so much the last six years... What not to do is a big one, what We can tolerate , what's worth the trouble , what will thrive on our land/climate, and so on..
So many ideas , dreams of what the farm would be ,,, the master plans we had.. (Lol! Master plan and farming lol!) 
I mean we Ofcourse sell extra livestock , eggs and things like that to help off set the feed bill but that's not really a business , thats just part of trying to feed yourself! 
There are very few animals kept on the hobby farm or the homestead level can truly pay for themselves.. 
and what little you make doesn't do anything to help pay for things like taxes , light bill and such. 
So as we such for ways to make the farm pay These last six years have taught us... 
We are not going to be a dairy goat ( or sheep) farm with a list of CSA customers...( so many reasons so many!)
not going to be an awesome fiber farmer with gorgeous, rare, long locked Wensleydales...( it would have been awesome though!)
Not going to be market farmers with loads of perfect organic veggies...
not going to be an big egg farmer...
Or a rare poultry hatchery... Not going to be a big heritage livestock breeder for the sake of saving an animals that cause us financial loss... ( cause sometimes they aren't popular because they aren't commercial , that's understandable ,, but sometimes they aren't popular because they are inefficient in any setting!) 
Not going to be a ....
The list is long ,my friends....all these are things We thought might work out ...Thought there might be a niche market ...We got wrote lots of reality checks!
And all this is ok... 
But unfortunately I just faced the reality ...I'm not going to a big ,cool seed saver....
I have had the goal to save the seeds of what I grow so to gain freedom from having to buy seeds... But I had thought if  I got good at it that selling my extra seed would be a nice small farm business.
I do save some seeds.. Some years..Like on years I don't plant more than one variety of okra or corn .. 
Because the reality of seed saving is ... It can be kinda complicated! Some need to take up garden space for 2 seasons to get seed, many need multiple plants to insure good genetic diversity ( yes plants can become to inbred just like livestock)  if space is an issue that can be a problem.. Some seeds need special processing conditions for optimum germination ...
But the main reason for me...many plants need to be isolated so the seed will be true.. Some need to be 25 ft away from other varieties ,some need 1/2 mile!
This would mean I couldn't plant a 12 varieties of tomatoes .. 6 different peppers... And the Many many different squash I love to plant ... Sure I could cage the plants in insect netting and hand pollenate .. But time is an issue then. With so many other things I have to keep up with on the farm I'm not seeing it! 
So I'll save what can be saved without to much trouble and leave the serious seed saving to the awesome people who have the time to do it right.
If I ever need to I can easily save the seed from my main survival crops. 
Until then I'll happily support seed savers and enjoy my many varieties of vegetables and grains ..,.

And happily watch over my barnyard of geese! 

I love it when everywhere I look there are geese.. Talking, honking , grazing , 
I love seeing the parent geese take turns being the lookout ...
And little goslings learning to swim ..
I really need to down size a few that I don't need...I do have to many breeders. I will eventually get my flocks down to the minimum we actually need.., yes! I really will!
Summer numbers always surge with spring babies but ...
I have a load of geese here! 😀
Have a blessed happy day! 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Garden grows & insanely good food

The garden is really starting to take off this month! 
And I'm so glad because I've missed the variety of spring & summer vegetables ..
We've had loads of kale , spinach , mustard greens and collards.. 
This is exciting!!! My honey berry is blooming!!!
And this!!! Fava beans!!! I just can not wait for these!
Pink plume celery slowly but surely coming around..
Loads and loads of sunchokes coming up.. I really thought I had harvested enough of them to avoid over crowding.. Guess I may need to pull some out to sell. Such an easy to grow crop.. And roasted sunchoke soup was one of the best new things we ate last winter.
Year 3 of the asparagus bed.. So far it's looking pretty good.
Asparagus is sort of a pain to take care of.. It occupies a fairly large bed all year but the harvest is short. And it's a heavy feeder!
But fresh asparagus taste nothing like store bought so I will continue to take the time for it.
With our over load of mustard greens I needed to start searching for new ways to cook them.. 
Pinterest to the rescue ! This was amazing!! Mustard green pesto!
Possibly the best pesto I ever made.. Perfect over our homegrown silkie chicken .. And it freezes beautifully allowing me to preserve the harvest in a new very flavorful way!
Also insanely good.. My moms peaches..,
Made a peach cobbler using my fresh ground cornmeal for the dumplings and then sprinkled it with some of last years dried elderberry harvest .. 
New farmstead take on an old favorite 
Next week is really warming up...
Looks like a lot of things will need to get in the ground and I'll be mulching over time trying to stay ahead of the weeds!

Y'all have a blessed weekend 

The best livestock addition to our farm since the geese!

I'm shocking myself because I'm still loving these Meishans!! I have watched and waited for them to do something I hate... But so far.. Nothing.
I have a very low tolerance for livestock drama.. Nothing is worse than an animal that sucks up your time on a working subsistence farm... Seriously! 

I mean,.. I love the 'products' that come from the pig... Pork is yummy, versatile .. It can be smoked, salt cured, pickled, pulled, dried, roasted , fried many cuts used so many ways! 
The lard is amazing!!! Good for Frying, baking, soap products, moisturizers... Even makes excellent confectionaries like truffles, fudge and whipped icing... If it's of high quality from a good lard hog.
So much can be made from this one animal!!
The pig...
It's for all this I 'allow' the raising of pigs here.. Though I've never liked them being here...
They are just crazy useful to a subsistence farmer... They need minimal shelters and do fine on Marginal land . They are hardy and don't need constant worming like ruminants. 
But ... Most breeds are also highly distructive , fence challenging , very dangerous and just all out annoying!
The AGH and KuneKune aren't fence challenging or especially dangerous .. Not 'as' destructive..they do root some.. They will root a lot if in a small area though. And They are annoying. 

In comes Meishan... They are none of those things ... No,, not even annoying!
I hold geese as the number one low input  (depending on breed some are more input) animal we raise. Low input with a high output is such a rare thing in livestock.
American Guinea hogs were number two here because of all their meat and fat can be used for .. And because they aren't near as destructive or dangerous as other pigs... 
But, I think the meishans might actually tie for one with the geese... They are just so.... Easy!
It's like they aren't even real hogs...
I admit , I'm totally fascinated by them..
Below in the middle is a kune that has been bred to a Meishan boar.. She's the squealing , rooting , annoying pig I was talking about.. But in with meishans her temperament has actually improved! 
We've ' heard say' that 50% meishans have the same temperaments as pure.. So we'll see about that..,I think kune kune pigs are cute, they are more docile than AGH .. They are supposed to root even less than Guinea hogs but I've not seen that with the ones we have had...
Livestock experiments .. Gotta try or ya never know!

Just lovely meishans pigs grazing pasture .., most pigs will eat some grass. Especially if you cut back their grain and make them.
The meishans eat grass, leaves and straw because they want to. We read in one of the many studies done on them that they can handle A higher forage/roughage diet than other pigs.. Makes them more economical if you have land enough for them to utilize. 
Be prepared to add hay to their shelters on a regular basis because the really do love hay and straw! We've had pigs nose through and pick out some seeds here and there but these guys eat it and like it! 
These pigs are the same size or bigger (depending on the line we will be breeding for the larger Meishan) than the American Guinea hogs but do seem to eat less. Maybe due to the fact that they love their roughage so much! 
When I feed scraps and extra garden produce to the new momma Meishan up by the house she ignores her usual fermented grains. 

I love raising pigs ... Without having to deal with 'raising pigs' !!!
..,for that reason alone I do think the Meishan pigs are the best livestock animal we've added to the farm since the geese.
I'm all about that low input-high output livestock! After dealing with a lot of high input animals in our first few years of farming there's just such a relief when you find the low inputs that will work for your farm. 
We are very blessed to have been able to get these hogs here! 

Monday, April 18, 2016

Gardens, goslings, orchards! and... Donkey udders?

The madness of hardening off is in full swing now!
The date of last frost (hopefully) has passed now it's waiting for the ground to warm up and get the seedlings prepared for life outside!
A few things already outside.. Doing well!
The buckets with squash and tomatoes have been in my greenhouse on cold nights. Planting in the wall o waters is easier than carrying buckets in at night!
First tomato blooms!!!! This is the earliest I've ever had tomato blooms so the extra effort of starting seeds super early and potting up all those times was worth it.
Already got some bush beans coming up.. Our favorite eating bean here.. Dragon Tongue 
Got the echinacea and midori soy beans in the ground too...
3 year old pear tree.... Great growth on this tree!! It's our biggest in the new orchard area. 
This tree below is in the first year orchard area,, Not as big of a tree but.... Little pears!!!!
Fruit trees have been extremely challenging! The orchard and vineyard have really been more my husbands project .. But it looks like I may have to take more charge over them. They've needed much more attention than we thought when he planted them .. Since I keep such a tight schedule on my vegetable gardens it may be easier for me just to add their management onto my lists of things to do.
I want to concentrate on pears mostly because they seem to do better than anything else so far.
And finally... A fig tree that didn't die out!
I'm actually going to have figs this year!
If I can keep the birds off them.. The figs have always been my project.
I love love love figs.. So they are a focus... Despite the babying they need in this climate to get started. 
Goslings grazing an area with fig trees..
As long as there's grass they can be allowed in this area to eat.. Once my figs leaf out and especially if the grass is down I have to close it off.. Goslings and geese will pull leaves off young trees and sometimes strip bark if they get bored. So alittle extra management for young fruit trees and geese. But that's easy enough.. Not like managing goats and fruit trees!
I've got babies all over! 
I sure love seeing them 😌😌
These were hatched by a Muscovy.
More babies.. These were incubator hatched first week of March . They grow SO fast!! The guy in the middle is out of my experimental hybrid cross.. 
Yes there is a such thing as hybrid vigor!!
He's bigger than all his incubator mates..
And this was taken at the first of last week!!! Below, Rani's little donkey udder coming in.. Which had doubled in size by the end of the week!!
I'm praying for a healthy foal.. And healthy momma... Jack or jennet I'm keeping it! We need more donkeys here for the new areas that will need to be guarded and kept trimmed down. 
I couldn't ask for a more gentle 'dairy donkey' in Rani that's certain!
Her temperament is so great.
Going to be a very busy week.. It's going to be very warm..I've got new goslings coming , hopefully a foal.,, 
Exciting time of year!!!

Friday, April 15, 2016

Little much needed time off the farm

Yesterday we took a little break off the farm (aka job site!) and drove over the Tellico Plains. 
Both of us love and seek out used book stores and The Book Shelf had been calling to us for some time!
A few miles up the road is Tellico river .. Bald river falls, baby falls, the tellico fish hatchery and an odd little community called Green Cove. 
But today was just a trip to the small little historic town block...
There's really not much town here.. 
But We discovered a really good place to eat.. Always a challenge when we go in a road trip because as a foodie/farmer/I have loads of food intolerances kinda girl , finding a place to eat is incredibly difficult!! 
So this was a really nice surprise.. Tellico Grains Bakery. 
Hot pressed sandwiches , brick oven pizzas and all that beautiful fresh made bread!
And the coffee was actually good!
Oh,, the pastries ! I normally wouldn't even look because to me pastries don't have much flavor .. they just always taste stale and overly sweet.. So I really haven't had one in years...
But these looked different. Rico bought a carrot cake frosted muffin than actually tasted fresh and had flavor!!! 
Winner/winner ...
This town may be small but a place to eat with fresh food and a used book store is a good place for me!
Oh.. The book store... It was small but nice 
And I found some good ones!!!!!
This old 1977 victory garden book was a good find!
Louise's leaves is more of a seasonal veggie recipe book with blank pages to add your own recipes. Really neat!
The Garden, dream and plan book... It's the best , most wonderful garden planning book I've seen! I like collecting unique garden planners and journal type books. This one is the best I've found.. I'll certainly be using it next year along with my charts. 
Nice break from the farm!

Honestly now that I'm getting a better handle on how the farm needs to be due to the countless reality checks over the years it doesn't feel as much like a job site as it did a couple of years ago... As long as I let go when it's time to let go (hard to let go of what the 'dream' farm was supposed to be and embrace what the reality farm is!), and keep my priories straight .. Which have also been defined by those same hard lessons learned reality checks. 
I read a blog post not long ago about a homesteader that had dreamed of a big productive veggie garden... Reality was her husband and kids like meat, bread and potatoes .. So all her hard work in the garden was pointless .. She was frustrated and annoyed but She had to let go of her ideal garden to focus on raising meat, potatoes and wheat...things her family actually wanted to eat. So she did and was much happier for it because now all her hard work was appreciated and she was filling an important role. 
I know that feeling! If all the work is not appreciated , or all the work leads to a money pit ... That's a stressful lifestyle, not a better lifestyle just because you're on a 'farm' or larger piece of land than you had in in the city. 

Our farm is shaping up to be what I think it has to be in order to not drive me back to a lesser stress lifestyle. Cause farming , though a wonderful thing, is stressful in many ways! 

And Taking day trips certainly helps! 

But now... Back to work! 

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Lovely Spring Day

Still having a real spring this year! 
In fact this may be the longest spring since we've been on the farm. The last few years all my seedlings were already moved to the green house and I have usually already transplanted tomatoes.. Not this year! Most seedlings are still in the house due to the chilly , windy days and the only tender annuals transplanted are protected by the wall o waters I bought this year. 
This time last year I was panicking and hanging shade cloth over my snow peas ... Not this year!
Look at this beauties.....
These are Carouby De Maussane snow peas ... Love the pretty red accents in the leaves. These are a first year trial. I planted 2 other new snow pea varieties and my tried and true Norli , they are to the left of these and already blooming!!  

Another new variety. Since I love Dragon Tongue beans why not try Dragon Tongue mustard! The flea Beatles like it a little but not enough to cause any real damage. It's mild enough to go in salads for me , sautées beautifully and has done well needing no protection in our late frosts this spring. But with protection it has grown much much faster! I'll be growing it this fall to see how it holds up in the winter coldness!  Love it's coloring.

Ahhhh... Little goslings! These four incubated babies weren't allowed into the adopted group my goose, Aunt Liz took She gladly took them! But it was the other 10 of her 'children' that weren't having it! So these guys are living it up in an area that's usually for the silkie chickens .. Since they don't get out to graze yet I bring them greens and grass everyday which , like all my geese, they greatly prefer grasses to the fermented and whole grain alfalfa mix I feed when there's no pasture. I love that so much about geese.. They bust out of the shell hard wired to eat grass! This spring has produced some nice cool weather pasture grasses and I'm already seeing my supplemental feed needs for the geese go down. Means less work for me and less of a feed bill! 
These guys will be out on pasture in a couple of weeks hopefully if the older goslings will allow!
I'm still waiting on several broody girls to hatch goslings and I have 2 more bloodlines of Chinese geese reserved that should be here in the next few weeks. With the addition of these 2 lines my flocks will be closed. Unless there's some horrible tragedy ( it's livestock so tragedy does happen!) I shouldn't ever need to bring in new blood for the geese again. 
Meishan piggie chowing down on a TN vining pumpkin from last years crop. I love giving them pumpkins whole and watching them attempt to break into it! 
Looks like it's going to warm up some today!!! Time to get some pole beans in and maybe the Yukon early corn I'm trying this year!

Enjoy the lovely spring day!!!!